DULLES, Va. (WJLA) - "Do it yourself" has been the trend lately with all kinds of products. It's even popular to brew your own beer.
Now one local start-up is hawking homemade gin kits. Sales are skyrocketing, but the gin recipe does not involve a bathtub.
Joe Maiellano loves gin and he has always wanted to open a distillery, but he says that requires too much capital and too many regulations.
After several experiments in his Crystal City condo, he figured out a recipe: vodka steeped with juniper berries plus other herbs and spices.
He soon shared his special sauce with a friend and now business partner.
“And Jack said, ‘Boy, this stuff is good enough, we should figure out a way to sell it.’ And we laughed about it,” said Maiellano.
That’s when the concept was born.
Joe and his wife Sarah both have full-time jobs, but they've worked nights, weekends - even lunch breaks - to launch The Homemade Gin Kit company.
Their starting budget allowed for 250 kits, but within a few months, orders came in for 2,500.
“[They were] floor to ceiling in my den and it was really insane, so we kind of knew we needed help at that point,” said Sarah Maiellano.
They eventually hired a team to handle shipments out of a Dulles-area warehouse. In one year's time, they have grown dramatically and internationally, with 10,000 orders and $500,000 in revenue.
But at $49.95 a kit, not everyone is buying it. Some don't even consider this gin, dismissing it as infused vodka.
In defense of their product, Sarah Maiellano said, “There's a distilled gin and there's a compound gin. And we're making a compound gin, which is totally legitimate. The color's a little bit different but the flavor is there.”
Online news articles about the kits - like this one from The Washington Post - are bombarded with comments and critiques:
"Somebody help me with this...why not just buy gin instead of the vodka?"
"A bottle of top shelf gin is $40."
"Seems nuts to me. Buy the gin!!"
But Joe Maiellano says his kits are for serious gin drinkers.
“There's nothing wrong with pancakes out of the box,” he said, “But when you use cornmeal and flour and whip them up fresh in the morning, I just think they taste better.”
Now, with the recipe's success, he is thinking more seriously about his goal of opening that distillery.